Norberto “Betto” Herrera

Norberto “Betto” Herrera is originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, where his mother was born and raised. His father was a fisherman from Peru, who fell in love with Betto’s mother during his visit to the port city of Guayaquil.  Sadly, his father, for whom Betto is named, was killed when he was only three years old. Betto is very proud of his heritage and grateful to have grown up surrounded by music and dance. His mother worked hard to immigrate to the United States, and was able to bring Betto and his two younger brothers a few years later.

Betto moved to West New York, New Jersey with his family in 1996, when he was a teenager. His desire to stay in touch with his Latin roots brought him to Ismael Otero, one of the pioneers of mambo and salsa dancing in the area. He studied under Ismael until he enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 2000.

During his time at Camp Lejeune, Betto started Afro Latin dance classes for service members and their dependents at MCAS New River Enlisted Club and the Jacksonville USO in 2001. He also started attending Montas Lounge in Durham, NC, when he was quickly asked to teach lessons there. The classes were so popular that he was asked to teach and perform throughout other parts of North Carolina. He was honorably discharged and medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004, because of a car accident, in which he almost lost his life. He moved Raleigh in 2004 as soon as he was done with his duty, and requests for instruction and performances continued.  And so, Mambo Dinamico was founded.

While living in Raleigh, Betto continued his dance training in different Latin dance styles. He trained in tango techniques with fellow instructor Daniel McClain. He also received mentorship and training from Cuban Master Felix “Pupy” Insua in Afro-Cuban movement and dance. Master Pupy’s knowledge and guidance helped Betto widen his perception towards dance to a larger scale. Because of him, Betto approaches Afro Latin dances as a way to create community and spread cultural awareness. In addition to ongoing dance training, Betto continues to expand his music repertoire and understanding through his mentor David Garcia, Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  As well as continue researching about the music and dance through his travels to Cuba and becoming a mentee of Maestra Marisol Blanco.

Apart of teaching dance and entertaining the public through performances, Betto has also been a leader in the community by promoting and educating people about the Latin culture.  He has been an example to follow in public responsibility in the dance community, organizing fundraisings and disaster relief collections gathering tons of goods for victims in Ecuador, Haiti and Puerto Rico.  Also being a spokesperson in different panels about the deep historical contribution of Latin people in the U.S. through music and dance.  Also his proactiveness has led him to initiate the creation of a non-profit organization to promote safety and diversity in the Latin dance community.  AALDA, the African and Afro-Latin Dance Association, which will coordinate and support efforts from Latin dance companies, instructors and event organizers across North Carolina.

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In the past few years, Betto has taken his efforts of spreading his love and knowledge for Latin dance to academia, the private and public sector in NC.  Creating educational programs, lectures and demonstrations for schools at all levels, from elementary school to Universities.  The intention is to help the students develop their appreciation for Latin culture by exposing them to the percussion instruments and rhythms, as well as the dance and their history, while drawing parallels of the evolution of these elements in Latin America and the U.S.  Betto has also been hired by many big corporations in RTP to present and educate their employees in the rich history of Latin music and dance.   Betto has been invited as a speaker and presenter for the Veterans Affairs Hospital (Durham and Fayetteville), talking to disabled veterans about his personal story and entertaining them with his talents.  Recently Betto had the honor to conduct a “Lunch-and-Learn Webinar” for the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources, which was casted to Human Resources Offices across the state.

Some highlights of Betto’s dance career include participating in international dance conferences in Washington, D.C.; New York City, NY; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Orlando, FL; Curacao, NA; Tokyo, Japan and many other cities. Betto was also appointed as the head judge of Southeast Salsa Open Dance Competition, as well as in the judging panel for the Peru Salsa Open. He has been featured in publications like Southern Living Magazine, News and Observer, The Independent Weekly, Cary Living Magazine, and LaVoz Del Mambo. Betto has also been interviewed and featured by local channels like Univision 40, WRAL and FOX50. He frequently is used as a subject for scholarly research by professors and students at local universities because of his expertise in Afro Latin dance and music.

Since Betto founded Mambo Dinamico he has transformed it into a premiere Afro Latin dance company that provides instruction, performances, and choreographies both nationally and internationally.  The dance company feels absolutely blessed to have been able to serve more than 50,000 students since its beginning.   Betto feels lucky that his love of dance turned into a lifelong career, and thankful everyday for his students and audiences that make it all possible.

 

Brian and Ellie – Bachata Instructors

            Brian Brizuela was born in Manassas, Virginia and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. His mother originally from Guatemala and his father from El Salvador, both immigrated to the USA shortly before Brian was born. Brian was raised surrounded by Hispanic culture and music, including Bachata, Merengue, Cumbia and Salsa. His love for dance and music was evident from a young age. During his teenage years, he discovered a love for various styles of Hip-Hop dance, which continue to influence his unique style and creativity. Through Hip-Hop, he also found his passion for choreography. Prior re-discovering Latin dancing, Brian was a member of a local Hip-Hop crew that performed at events in North Carolina and battled other dance groups in the area.  In late 2015, Brian met Ellie, his current dance partner, at a local Latin dance social, and became immediately interested in learning different styles of Latin dance. Since beginning his Latin dance education, he is well-versed in the technique of Dominican “traditional” bachata, Salsa and Mambo. However, he found his true passion for Bachata after discovering the unique style of Daniel and Desirée (Spain), as well as Korke Escalona and Judith Cordero (Spain) – the creators of Bachata Sensual.

Elizabeth “Ellie” Marie was born and raised in Sacramento, California to an Italian-American family. Ellie’s mother introduced her to Latin dance at a young age since she trained to be an instructor before Ellie was born. As a young girl, Ellie was taught Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata, surrounded by the rich Hispanic culture in California, where she quickly learned to speak Spanish. As a child she immersed herself in various styles of dance and art, including jazz and gymnastics, and musical theater. It was not until 2014, after her family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and when her mother was re-inspired to learn Latin dance, that Ellie took her first Salsa class in Durham, North Carolina. Her passion for different styles of Latin dance grew quickly, and she began to train exclusively with Jose Paredes in “traditional” Dominican Bachata and Mambo, and in 2015, began to assist Jose in teaching classes and creating choreography. After meeting her partner, Brian, at a Salsa social, they were inspired to learn different styles together and take classes from various instructors in the area. Ellie’s knowledge of Dominican Bachata and Mambo strongly influence her technique and musicality. She discovered her love for Sensual Bachata with Brian when they began training with Kat Arias in Washington D.C. She has been inspired by the feminine sensual styles of Desirée Guidonet, Judith Cordero, and Andrea Cobos Gomez from Spain. She is preparing to graduate in the spring of 2019 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studies Exercise and Sport Science, Hispanic Studies, Portuguese and Italian.

Since beginning their partnership in late 2015, Brian and Ellie have trained with numerous reputable instructors in various Latin styles, including but not limited to Jose Paredes, Norberto “Betto” Herrera, Annie Velez, Jenny Geska, Kat Arias, Jose Serrano, Vladi Aragon and Carla Capo. Their passion for Sensual Bachata has been inspired by the technique of Korke and Judith (Spain) and the ambassadors of Bachata Sensual. In May of 2017, they began teaching their first weekly group class at Aura Studio, expanding on the fundamentals of bachata and introducing sensual style and technique to the Raleigh Latin dance community. In 2018, they travelled to Madrid, Spain where they immersed themselves in the culture and style in order to improve their social dancing technique. That same year, they competed as members of Ferocity Dance Company under Kat Arias at the Ultimate Latin Dance Championship and at the World Latin Dance Cup as an Amateur Bachata couple, placing in the Top 3 at both competitions. They are best known for their musicality, fluidity, and connection. By continuing to grow within their local community and to expand their style as dancers, performers, and instructors, they hope to connect individuals of various cultures and backgrounds across the world through dance.

Jamila “Puentes” Bridges

Jamila, who was born and raised in High Point, NC has been interested in sports since young. Dancing to the beat of hip hop, she danced nights away during her teenage years. Jamila got interested in salsa during her college years where she and friends would exchange dance steps and hit the local salsa club in Greenville, NC.

Soon after moving to the Raleigh-Durham area in NC she decided to learn Mambo on2 and joined Mambo Dinamico’s classes during the spring of 2006. Her fast improvement led her to earn a spot in Mambo Dinamico’s student team, Mambo Sabroso. Because of Jamila’s dedication, hard work and positive attitude, she was also able to join Mambo Dinamico’s professional performance team within just a couple of months of beginning her training with the company.

According to Jamila, she enjoys being part of the Mambo Dinamico team, which she believes is the greatest latin dance company in North Carolina. Jamila has been training under the supervision of director Betto Herrera, who she considers a very passionate instructor, since she first started her venture into Mambo On2 style. She admires Betto’s dedication, as he caters to the needs of each student, ensuring that they walk out of his class being a better dancer than when first walked in.

Jamila feels happy to have an extended family within the Mambo Dinamico. She believes that this is a group of individuals that genuinely care about each other and she plans on being part of the team for years to come, – not only learning – but also sharing the knowledge that Betto has impressed upon her.